Rain or shine, VINS is a fascinating place to connect with the natural world. Check in on rehabilitating raptors, see how falcons hunt their prey or explore any of the nature trails around the perimeter of the facility. Just off Route 4 in Quechee, it’s an easy, and educational, walk on wild side.
National Historic Landmark, celebrates America’s industrial revolution. See machine tools, rifles, a working 19th century gun shop. Open daily 10-5 May 26-Oct. 31. $6 admission. Gift Shop. On US Rte. 5, between Exits 8 and 9 off I-91.
The Fairbanks Museum is Vermont’s Smithsonian. Founded in 1889 by St. Johnsbury industrialist and amateur naturalist Franklin Fairbanks, it was an outgrowth of his own personal “cabinet of curiosities”: 175,000 items, as it turned out, that included more than 2500 dolls, 55,000 archival photographs and North America’s largest collection of stuffed hummingbirds. Don’t leave without seeing John Hampson’s patriotic bug art. Once apprenticed to inventor Thomas Edison, Hampson created nine works of art composed entirely of colorful beetles and moths.
You can’t bring them home, but the fossilized corals that make up the Chazy Reef on Isle la Motte are definitely worth a visit. Paleontologists believe the reef was formed almost half a billion years ago, when Lake Champlain was part of the shallow Iapetus Ocean, where Zimbabwe is today. A well-marked path leads through the field to outcroppings swirled with signs of life — swirled skeletal remains of cephalopods and stromotoporoids. “Discovery Areas” are numbered and identified. The one-room museum sheds light — when it’s open.
Vintage posters of pink-cheeked skiiers. Prehistoric bindings. Old accounts of ski adventures along Route 100. The Vermont Ski Museum chronicles the history of going downhill fast with a large collection of skiing artifacts and memorabilia. Vermont’s famous Cochran family figures prominently. Special exhibits this summer include, “From Schussing to Shredding: The Evolution of Ski Technique.” The museum is open every day but Tuesday.
If there were railroad tracks between Barre and Montpelier, Barre would be “on the other side” of them. It’s a working-class city that sprang up around the region’s remarkable granite quarries, which are still producing world-class stone. The original laborers were immigrants from Italy and Scotland. This museum documents the history, geology and technology of the dangerous trade that cut many Vermont lives short.
Located in the Pavillion Office building, this museum offers a great primer on the forces that have shaped Vermont. The permanent 5000-square-foot exhibit “tells the story of Vermont’s people from 1600 to the present,” according to the website. “Using Vermont’s motto, ‘Freedom and Unity,’ as its thematic cornerstone, the exhibition shows visitors how Vermonters have always balanced individual freedoms and community.”
People have been fighting over Lake Champlain as long as there have been personal flotation devices. The waterway’s strategic value is evidenced by the dozens of shipwrecks on the bottom. The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum has been discovering, researching and protecting those rusty relics, and the result is the Lake Champlain Underwater Historic Preserve, a gallery of sunken ships accessible to divers. But there’s plenty to look at on land, too. The dry museum chronicles the maritime history of the area through exhibits, boat-building demonstrations, lectures and festivals.
The sturdy, studly Morgan horse is unique to Vermont. That’s because Justin Morgan — originally of Springfield, Massachusetts — was living in Randolph when he bred the animal to perfection back in the 1700s. Strong and versatile, the animals worked on farms, pulled stagecoaches, competed in early harness racing and carried the First Vermont Cavalry to the Civil War. The National Museum of the Morgan Horse recounts this uniquely American equine story.
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